Feeding Your Muscles

You’ve made the decision, you’re no longer going be the skinny guy or girl, you’re going to grow some lean muscle and build the sexy athletic body you’ve always wanted. Great, so where do you start? OK, firstly you’ll want to review your current nutrition, this is the key (and the most overlooked aspect to losing fat and growing muscle, even by people who know the science).

To build muscle, your calorie intake per day must be greater than your calorie expenditure per day (how much you burn off). In this article we’re going to take a look at how many calories you need to eat each day and how to work that magic number out. Once you have an understanding of total calories needed, you can then break this down into the required proteins, fats and carbohydrates.

You’ve heard it before “eat big to get big” – but what does this actually mean? Should you go and eat 20 Big Mac’s everyday for 6 months, you’ll definitely get big, but probably not the type of ‘big’ you want. Before we start to break down the macronutrients (proteins, fats and carbohydrates) and the magic ratio between these, let’s make sure we understand the basics. So, how many calories do you actually need? The answer to this is ‘it depends’, but don’t worry, we’re going to work through now (time to get out your calculator):


Step 1

Your weight (lbs) x 11 = Your basic calorie need

This calculation will tell you the amount of calories you need each day to simply exist – your basic calorie need.


Step 2

Your basic calorie need x caloric cost of your activity level (%) = Your metabolic rate.

Because you tend to move around and eat during the day, you’re going to need more calories than your basic calorie need. Use the chart below to help you find the caloric cost of your activity level.

Activity Level


< 30

30 – 40

> 40

Mostly sedentary




Moderately active




Dedicated exerciser





Step 3

Your basic calorie needs + your metabolic rate = your maintenance total

This calculation reveals how many calories you need to maintain your current body composition i.e. without growing muscle or losing fat.


Step 4

Once you have your maintenance goal, simply add 250 – 500 calories for muscle growth or deduct 250 – 500 calories for fat loss. Obviously increasing your calories by 500 per day will lead to a faster rate of growth than if you increase by 250. However, if you’re looking for a slower lean growth, 250 may be the way to go.

The steps outlined above will help you begin to understand your basic calorie needs each day. It is up to you to then adjust and learn what works best for you. It should be noted that the calculations shown here are most accurate when we talk about fat loss and muscle gain is less predictable given that more calories and movement of a heavier body both speed up your metabolism.

*The views and/or opinions expressed in the blogs are not necessarily those of Training Nation, but of the author

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